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Photo by: Courtesy Yesh Atid
Meet the MK: Adi Kol
By LAHAV HARKOV
20/02/2013
19th in a series on the new members of the 19th Knesset: Yesh Atid’s Kol plans to continue her work ensuring equal opportunity for all.
 
Not many new MKs are recipients of the Knesset Speaker’s Award, but Yesh Atid’s Adi Kol was honored in 2011 for founding “University of the People,” which opened Tel Aviv University’s doors to underprivileged people.

“The idea came from a basic sense that positions of influence in Israel are not open to a lot of populations. The place to make the change is at university, which should be a place to share knowledge and not a factory for getting degrees,” she explained on Tuesday.

Kol plans to bring that same idea of openness and access to the Knesset.

“Some populations don’t know how to enter the Knesset website or write a letter to an MK. I had students who had never been to the Knesset or even to Jerusalem,” the Yesh Atid MK said. “New MKs have to make this place more accessible to everyone, and invite leaders of underrepresented communities and neighborhoods.”

Name: Adi Kol
Party: Yesh Atid
Age: 37
Hometown: Tel Aviv
Family status: Married
Profession before becoming an MK: PhD in law from Columbia University, founder of “University of the People,” in which underprivileged people can take free university courses taught by students.

Why did you decide to enter politics?
Over many years, I tried to find the place where I can have an influence in Israel. I was in academia for a long time, thinking and writing, and then I founded social organizations where I tried to make changes in academia and in general to bring equality of opportunity, which we need in a Jewish, Zionist state.

I felt that I wasn’t succeeding or having enough of an influence, and decided [the Knesset] is the place to be.

I chose parties carefully. One of the things that bothers me in Israel is the polarity of the Left and Right, which doesn’t allow discourse. Most of us have a basic thought that we want to live in a good, just, equal place. In Yesh Atid, I found I had more in common with other people than I thought. I believe in their abilities and their commitment and honesty in their goals.

What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
I already proposed one, and submitted it on my first day here. We need better supervision of lobbyists. The fact that people with more money have more power [by hiring lobbyists] harms equality and professionality in legislation.

The other areas where I want to propose bills are for equal opportunities in legislation, specifically with differential budgeting giving more to those who have less, and professional training for populations who do not participate in the workforce.

What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
Meeting with high schoolers. We put a lot of effort into schools and traveled all over the country. It’s amazing to talk to youth, ask their opinions and have a real dialogue. It’s a great way to influence and learn a lot, which is very significant for me.

This Knesset has a record high number of women and religious people. How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings?
I very much hope that topics connected to women will be higher on the agenda, but even bills that aren’t necessarily “female” will improve. The quality of legislation will be better when it is not just speaking in a male voice to certain population groups.

One of the nicest things in this Knesset is the variety in the religious and Jewish viewpoints. One of the things I found in Yesh Atid is a way to make religion accessible to secular people. I grew up in a very secular, even anti-religious family, and I learned about Judaism in the US when I studied in Columbia. My first time in “shul” was in New York. I learned about a more accepting Judaism from US Jewry. MK Ruth Calderon and others in Yesh Atid showed me it’s possible to bring religion to secular people.

Do you think haredim and Arabs should perform military or national service, and if so, how should the state enforce it?
Every 18-year-old needs to serve the country, but not necessarily in the army. I think the emphasis needs to be less on army than on civilian service. As a country we need a lot of help, and [haredi and Arab] communities have a lot of needs. Civilian service within the community is very significant. We need this manpower, and it will bring solidarity and mutual responsibility.

Do you support a religious-Zionist chief candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for the Chief Rabbinate?
On principle, yes, but I don’t know the candidates.

What can be done to lower the cost of housing in Israel?
Yesh Atid has a detailed plan, and there are other good plans that talk about long-term rental apartments. We need to start dealing with this as soon as possible to rezone land, allow building, and let young couples find homes.

What do you think can be cut in the budget, which must be passed within 45 days of the government’s swearing-in?
The government shouldn’t fund educational institutions that don’t teach the core curriculum or private institutions that don’t allow the state to supervise them. I think we need to take more taxes from people who don’t pay. We should invest more in the people who serve and contribute to society, the middle class.

What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
I believe in Yesh Atid’s position, that we need to return to talks as soon as possible. If we don’t start talking, there won’t be a solution. In the end, we need two states for two nations.

Do you support the adoption of the Edmund Levy Report, which recommends the state approve unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
I don’t support it. I think that this is a problematic legal understanding. According to international law, settlement construction is illegal. I was interviewed by CNN after the election, and they were very surprised by Yesh Atid’s domestic agenda and that people in Israel care about the cost of living and housing. The world doesn’t know about the things that bother us.

People talk a lot about diplomatic matters, which are important, but my 50-yearold student from Dimona isn’t thinking about peace talks or settlements. She wants to know how she’ll be able to feed her children.

When we talk about Israel, I want people to know that side, too, the things we talk about every day.
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